September 11, 2013
In today’s paper, in “Needed: A report card on parents,” Esther Cepeda argues that for all the insistence on grading school and teacher performance what is often missing is an assessment as to how parents are keeping up their side of the bargain. As Cepeda says about school reform movements, “parent performance is rarely figured into such calculations.” She adds that maybe we should be focusing as much on universal parenting school as we do on universal pre-school. http://www.adn.com/2013/09/11/3069875/esther-cepeda-universal-preschool.html
Sadly, many of my experiences match Cepeda’s depictions. Just one anecdotal example.
A couple of years ago, I had one of my first assignments in the RCSD. It was at the old Edison. The school was taking mid-terms, and it was my job to call home to students who had failed to show. I thought it might be amusing in a way. I pictured hapless kids being sheepishly aroused from beds by unamused mothers. I imagined I might be lecturing kids as they tried a foolish string of excuses.
I was given a list of about forty parent names. I was able to contact exactly two students, brothers who were left unsupervised, so had no transportation to make the test. (A saintly school psychologist offered to pick them up, but it didn’t quite work out.) From what I recall, the vast majority of numbers were from defunct cell phones. I did reach a few live lines, but no one answered or returned my calls. One number was for McDonalds, but I was told the woman had not worked there in months.
I asked other teachers about it. They gave the unfortunate resigned shrug. They dealt with the inability to contact parents so frequently it barely raised an eyebrow.
For me it was a first time experience. And a very depressing one. The bottom line was that these forty parents sent their kids to school without providing any way for the schools to contact them. When one cell phone ended, they never provided an updated number. Same when they moved.
I thought to myself. What if this had been a medical emergency? What if—for whatever reason—it was really important that parents be contacted and be in touch with the school?
From this small experience, when I read about addressing parent performance, in some cases we need to start with the basics. Parents, let schools know where you are. That’s your side of the bargain.